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Human Rights Day commemorations recall challenges human rights defenders face

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Human Rights Day was celebrated at the national, regional and global level on 10 December. The day provided an opportunity for civil society organisations to reflect on the state of human rights in 2007.
(Bangkok, 17 December 2007) Human Rights Day was celebrated at the national, regional and global level on 10 December. The day provided an opportunity for civil society organisations to reflect on the state of human rights in 2007.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), a FORUM-ASIA member organisation, issued a press release on the day. It concluded that human rights "continue to deteriorate" in the country, with a growth in the number of cases of impunity and rampant violations against dissent by the government.

On 9 December nine individuals who took part in a peaceful march in Kuala Lumpur. On 11 December, at least 24 human rights defenders were reportedly arrested while trying to submit a memorandum to the Parliament regarding demand for electoral reform of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH).

On 10 December FORUM-ASIA participated in activities organised by Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) at the office of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Bangkok. FORUM-ASIA issued an updated report of the present ratification statuses of Asian countries and presented an exhibit displaying the biographies and portraits of eight individual and two groups of human rights defenders.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also visited ESCAP on the day to launch a year-long commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). He said, “Fundamental freedoms enshrined in it are still not a reality for everyone. Too often, governments lack the political will to implement international norms they have willingly accepted”.

On the same day the sixth session of the Human Rights Council resumed with a commemoration of the declaration’s anniversary. Carlo Cleofe, a staff member of Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), a FORUM-ASIA member organisation, delivered a speech stating, “We still have a long way to go towards realising the declaration’s principle of equality, non-discrimination and recognition of the inherent dignity of everyone everywhere”. He added, “We in civil society should reflect on the importance of our role in ensuring that States fulfill [their] obligations to respect, protect and fulfill human rights”.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour also issued a statement on the day. She said, “Unprecedented efforts must be made to ensure that every person in the world can rely on just laws for his or her protection. In advancing all human rights for all, we will move towards the greatest fulfillment of human potential, a promise which is at the heart of the Universal Declaration”.

International Human Rights Day has been celebrated since 1950 to commemorate the day of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

For more information:
Human Rights Day celebrated across the world